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Catching More Business With Honey

Tracey and Cliff Spriggs
Company: Honey Biscuits
Number of employees: Three full-time employees.
Any plans for hiring? Yes, we plan to take on new people as our business grows.
Childhood kitchen memory? Tracie: My grandmother was a terrible cook, and she used to make homemade rolls. Sometimes, they'd turn into hockey pucks. I was determined that when I got older, I would work with her recipes to make them better.
Cliff: My grandmother was the best cook and soul inspiration. My favorite food she made was sweet potato pie. She made everything from scratch.
Favorite celebrity chef? Carla Hall from The Chew. I fell in love with her when she was on "Top Chef." She started out as a caterer and you can tell, she loves to cook. She's real down to earth, Carla Hall. We went to The Chew, and she's just as bubbly off set.
Weirdest kitchen tool you've ever used? A chainsaw.
Last supper? Tracie: If it's my last supper, I'm going to die eating chocolate, and its going have nuts in it.
Cliff: Bone-end prime rib and a sweet potato tart.

Cliff and Tracie Spriggs were waiting for the right time to launch their dream catering business. Tracie worked as a supervisor for a tropical plant company while Cliff served as a state correctional dietary supervisor, among other stints with restaurants like the Center Club and Spike and Charlie's Restaurant & Wine Bar.
The couple finally took the plunge nearly a decade ago. A trial party for 150 guests proved successful and brought in orders the next day. With stringent health department regulations, it still took them two-and-a-half years to initially find commercial kitchen space.
This month, the couple moved from their 2,000 square foot commercial kitchen in the Security Square Mall food court to a 3,300 square foot location in Randallstown. The couple invested $40,000 to open the business, which includes office space, conference room, catering facility and commercial kitchen that they rent out to aspiring chefs. 
Renters are not locked down to monthly or yearly leases at Honey Biscuits, paying $35 per hour. The business owners say their low charges drew in business from chefs at heart who never had the time to cook until they got laid off during the recession.
Honey Biscuits' has left their catering footprints in Maryland and Washington, D.C., helping breed locals like Cupcake and Co., Icedgems, Fresh Bakery, and Mallow Crunchies.

"It's very hard. We aren't rich from doing it," says Tracie, though she says she expects to turn a profit by the end of the year. "But to me, what I get out of it is we have several businesses say, 'We're opening up our place'. We go to their grand openings and they're in beautiful locations, and it means a lot to us that we helped them get to the next step."

An alumnus of the Women's Entrepreneurs of Baltimore, Tracie offers kitchen renters offers business advice while critiquing how they work in the kitchen. Cliff offers culinary training and helps clients adjust their food purchases for commercial use. For instance, he tells them to think of buying 50 pounds of flour, rather than five.
The Spriggs say they draw catering customers with their diverse culinary repertoire, ranging from Moroccan and Asian dishes to comfort food like their popular basil-baked chicken. Some requests, like Russian borscht, have thrown them for a loop and required some research.
"If I hear that someone uses a tablespoon of oregano in their recipe, I'll use 3 tablespoons of fresh oregano", says Cliff. "It's like night and day when you smell it, taste it, bite into something when it's fresh and not dry."
Cliff and Tracie have gotten their business down to a science, as Cliff nonchalantly recounts making 150 gallons of gumbo for a recent order. Originally, when the reputation of Honey Biscuits spread by word of mouth and the orders went from a dinner party of 50 to a request for 536 lunch boxes with homemade bread, cookies, and chicken salad, Tracie turned to mentors like Teavolve's Sunni Gilliam to stay grounded.

"She mostly told me to stay calm," Tracie says. "She helped me get organized and gave me different avenues to operate my business".
"They're passionate and have love for what they do," says Women's Entrepreneurship of Baltimore CEO Maria Welch Martinez. "It's like a family, they know their customers and use quality ingredients."

Jolene Carr is a Syracuse, New Yorker who moved to Baltimore for school, work, and play. Her previous writing includes restaurant and club reviews for Syracuse's Table Hopping and nonfiction in the Urbanite.


Tracie and Cliff Spriggs, owners of Honey Biscuits.

Tracie and Cliff Spriggs, owners of Honey Biscuits.

Tracie Spriggs, owner of Honey Biscuits.

Honey Biscuits potato rolls.

Tracie Spriggs Grandmother's sifter still in use more than 50 years later.

All photographs by STEVE RUARK
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